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Agricultural Review


Count wheat tillers to determine nitrogen needs.

Count the number of tillers, usually in late January or early February when wheat begins to green up (Feekes growth stage 3). If there are 50 or more tillers (with at least three leaves) per square foot, wait and apply nitrogen in March at Feekes growth stage 5. If your wheat is pale green and the tiller count is below 50, go ahead and apply half the recommended nitrogen. You should apply the other half after taking tissue samples in March. Sample results will indicate how much more nitrogen to apply.

Test source water for tobacco seedling float beds.

Nearly half of the source water samples taken from tobacco float-bed operations in North Carolina and about one in five nutrient solution samples have high alkalinity (sometimes known as total carbonates). Alkalinity values greater than or equal to 100 contribute to high pH and soluble-salt problems. When necessary, the solution analysis report provides recommendations for reducing alkalinity by 80 percent.

Survey hay and pasture lands for potential weed or fertility problems.

Weeds can be a real cause for concern in hay crops and pastures. They rob the crop of essential nutrients and shade it out, causing bare spots. Before you waste time and money by applying fertilizer or animal waste to weedy fields, check for weeds and related fertility problems. Then, go ahead and take the preliminary steps necessary to correct the problem in the coming months. Timely fertilizer and lime applications improve forage production and quality.

Tips on understanding cation exchange capacity (CEC)

Many growers ask questions about the meaning of cation exchange capacity values on NCDA&CS soil test reports. In essence, CEC values indicate the ability of a soil to hold nutrients: for example, the higher the CEC value, the greater the capacity of the soil to supply calcium, magnesium and potassium for plant growth. Sandy soils tend to have low CEC values (typically 1-3 milliequivalents per 100 cubic centimeters) and low levels of nutrients. Organic and clay soils tend to have higher CEC values (up to 25 milliequivalents per 100 cubic centimeters) and more nutrients.

Note: Soil test reports from other laboratories may report CEC values in units of milliequivalents per 100 grams. These values have to be interpreted on a different scale than NCDA&CS values.


NCDA&CS Public Affairs Division, Andrea Ashby, Director
Mailing Address:1001 Mail Service Center, Raleigh NC 27699-1001
Physical Address: 2 West Edenton Street, Raleigh NC 27601
Phone: (919) 707-3001; FAX: (919) 733-5047

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